Seafloor Geodetic Pressure Measurements to Detect Shallow Slow Slip Events: Methods to Remove Contributions From Ocean Water

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Shallow slow slip events (SSEs) provide a mechanism for strain release in the shallow part of subduction zones, with fundamental implications for fault mechanics and tsunami hazards. Despite their importance, SSEs are challenging to monitor. They occur under the ocean far from land-based GPS stations, and while seafloor pressure sensors can detect SSE vertical seafloor movements, the measured bottom pressure includes “ocean noise” signals from pressure variations within the water column. Seeking to improve techniques to remove ocean noise, a pilot study offshore Oregon collected seafloor pressure and near-bottom current measurements at four sites from April to November 2017. Three methods were applied to reduce ocean noise: 1) subtract a reference pressure, 2) apply complex empirical orthogonal function analysis to pressure measurements, and 3) combine pressure and current measurements with optimal interpolation (OI). All three methods are established techniques from either geodesy or oceanography. Each method produced residual standard deviation, σ < 1 hPa. No SSE was detected during this study. For illustration purposes synthetic SSEs of 2 cm amplitude and 7-days duration were added and detected, one at a time at different spots. Because currents are unaffected by a SSE, the combination of currents and pressures with the dynamical constraint of geostrophy in OI reduced the false interpretation of the synthetic SSEs as oceanic. OI produced the most reliable detection. Future seafloor geodesy field projects should consider adding current sensors and using OI methods to reduce ocean noise and to reveal tectonic signals.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth